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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (16 May) . . Page.. 1756 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

I hope that Australia involves itself in this process, behaves as a good neighbour and corrects many of our past wrongs by ensuring that East Timor is economically independent.

Many Australians were there when the East Timorese people needed them most, running pirate radio stations and providing information and resources to the democratic movement. It is time for Australia to recognise the Australian heroes who performed these roles for 25 years.

At a local level many organisations I have been involved with have already provided, and continue to provide, assistance to East Timor. Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA has recently been successful with a three-year contract from AusAid for programs in East Timor. These will build on pilot activities undertaken over the last 15 months in a very practical demonstration of Australian union solidarity with the people of East Timor.

Additional AusAid funding will enable Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA to further expand work currently under way in three areas: firstly, to expand non-formal vocational training and literacy training projects; secondly, to strengthen East Timorese community-based organisations, particularly in the districts; and thirdly, to increase assistance to the development of a community radio working with the Timor Loro Sae Journalists Association.

It is this practical solidarity we should celebrate today with the people of East Timor, a solidarity that they welcome and applaud. Solidarity sustained the independence movement. Even though Xanana was imprisoned, no-one could stop Nelson Mandela visiting him and expressing support. Imprisonment could not hide the issues or prevent criticism and scrutiny.

Many parliamentarians are now visiting our newest neighbour. Recently former New South Wales Labor Attorney-General Jeff Shaw went to East Timor to view the scene, observing:

The people battle on valiantly. Children wave cheerfully as the United Nations vehicles travel the roads. In circumstances of poverty and high employment, morale is remarkably high.

It is fantastic to see this transition occurring in East Timor, and I am pleased to be here along with millions of others who are observing and celebrating this great achievement. On 19 and 20 May 2002 the world will again watch. This time we will watch and celebrate with the Timorese people as they take to the streets through two days of music, culture and tradition when the United Nations hands over the reins to the newly established democratic government. I will be standing with the people of East Timor to celebrate independence, saying as those in the movement so often have, "To resist is to win. Long live a free East Timor."

MS DUNDAS (5.28): Since the inception of the Australian Democrats in 1977, the party has consistently championed the rights of the East Timorese people to self-determination. Because Australia plays an important role in the dynamics of the South East Asian and Pacific region, we have been relieved and encouraged by the growing recognition of all Australian political parties of the plight of the East Timorese peoples.

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